"The alarm was tripped. Heidi Leon was the person responsible for responding to that alarm and going and checking on that door, according to their training and protocols. She did not do that. She simply turned the alarm off and went back to watching the television show," Joe Birkett, DuPage County state's attorney, said Tuesday.
Birkett described what led up to the death of 89-year-old Sara Wentworth, mother of three girls. On February 5, Wentworth left her room at the Arbor of Itasca and walked out a door into a frigid courtyard. That set off an alarm at Leon's work station.
"Leon failed to perform these duties and check on the residents, including Sara Wentworth, or check on the alarm that was triggered regarding the outside door. By doing so, she engaged in a pattern of neglect," said Birkett.
Workers found Wentworth five hours after that alarm, dead in the courtyard. Wentworth had died from exposure to the cold.
Sources say nursing home employees often used the same exit for smoke breaks.
The staff at Arbor of Itasca was well aware that Wentworth would wander out of her room. They had placed an ankle bracelet on her for that reason.
In addition to neglect charges, prosecutors are also accusing Leon of obstruction for initially telling officers that she made her rounds and checked on Wentworth.
"If you're hired in a professional capacity and you're given duties and you're trained, you're expected to carry out those duties," Birkett said.
Nursing home officials are reportedly cooperating with prosecutors on the investigation. The victim's family may also be filing a lawsuit against the nursing home.
Leon is not allowed near the nursing home if she posts bond.